Why, Jo Brand, why?
This was the question I, and many other viewers no doubt, was asking – no, screaming – on Saturday night when ITV started broadcasting its brand new “entertainment” series, Splash.
For those of you who didn’t see it – and trust me, it has to be seen to be believed – the show features celebrities diving in to a swimming pool having been trained beforehand by Olympic star Tom Daley, only to be given scores by a judging panel.
And Brand, in case you haven’t guessed where I am going with this, is part of the judging panel. That’s right, the judging panel. For a show about diving.
Now I’m no expert on all things Brand, but I know that she’s not best known for her diving expertise. And it seems I’m right, as the press pack for the series proudly lists the judging panel as “diving coach Andy Banks”, “former Olympic diving medalist Leon Taylor” and “comedienne, writer and actress Jo Brand”. The clue is there in black and white.
My heart sinks a little. Yes you expect to see a certain type of “celebrity” on this show – but as contestants. Those desperately trying to claw their way back into the public’s affection, such as, in this instance, Helen Lederer and Omid Djalili. Oh, and some guy who told us we would all know him best from the TV series Benidorm. But I’d never seen him before in my life before the weekend and now I’ve seen far too much of him. In every sense.
But what, I wonder, compelled Brand to put her reputation as a smart and savvy writer, actor and presenter at risk by agreeing to take part in something that was quite obviously going to be rubbish, no matter how persuasive the producers may have been when they contacted her?
I can only imagine the conversation:
“Hi Jo, it’s ITV. We’ve got a series coming up in which some celebrities are going to hurl themselves into a swimming pool and we’d like you to judge it.”
“But I don’t know anything about diving.”
“Oh that doesn’t matter. Dawn French didn’t know much about musical theatre when we took her on for Superstar and she was fine.”
“Fair enough. I’m in.”
No doubt ITV hoped Brand would add some humour to the series, but as it happens the sight of Lederer in her swimming costume did the trick.
Basically, Brand couldn’t save this show, which took bad television to a whole new level. And yet ratings suggest around six million people tuned in, although I’m guessing that most of those viewers, like me, were probably too stunned to turn over.
As I tweeted at the weekend, the show would have benefited from having crocodiles or sharks in to the swimming pool. Someone else suggested that removing the water altogether would have livened things up. Ouch.
But Splash raises a serious question about the future of Saturday night entertainment. With the awful Animal Antics on BBC1 starting last weekend too, I wonder if some commissioners have lost touch with what viewers find entertaining? And with The X Factor past its sell by date, and, dare I say it, Strictly Come Dancing becoming a little bit tiresome, I think it’s time Saturday night TV had an overhaul. And ITV can start by scrapping Splash.